2015 Toward Zero Deaths Conference

October 29-30, 2015
St. Cloud River's Edge Convention Center
St. Cloud, Minnesota

More than 900 people attended the opening session

More than 900 people attended the opening session.

Matt Richtel giving the opening keynote presentation

New York Times reporter and best-selling author Matt Richtel gave the opening keynote presentation.

Inyan Walking Elk at podium

Inyan Walking Elk, Office of Construction & Innovative Contracting, Minnesota Department of Transportation

Dr. Heidi Lako-Adamson at podium

Dr. Heidi Lako-Adamson, Sanford Health/F-M Ambulance Service

Conference exhibits

Conference exhibits

Attendees in the exhibit area speaking with state patrol officials

Attendees in the exhibit area

Conference exhibits

Conference exhibits

Conference exhibits

Conference exhibits

Awards luncheon

Awards luncheon

attendees seated at awards luncheon

Awards luncheon

Group photo of award winners

Award winners

Demonstration of how to quickly extract a victim from a vehicle following a crash

One session included a demonstration of how to quickly extract a victim from a vehicle following a crash.

Conference Materials


Welcome and Opening Remarks

Opening Plenary: Confessions of a Phone Addict—Distracted Driving and the Brain

As society looks to break the deadly grip of distracted driving, scientists have uncovered a possible key to thoughtful policy: the role of the human brain. This provocative presentation described the relationship between our brains and our smartphones and other gadgets. Why are they so alluring that we use them while driving, even at high speeds and during bad weather? Why are phones so compelling that we would use them even at great risk to ourselves and others? The answers will surprise you and may well change how you look at the solutions to distracted driving and also how you look at your relationship to technology. It is not what you think.

Plenary Session: Saved by a Car Seat Clinic

Two weeks before a horrific car crash, Bethany Olson attended a car seat clinic where she made life-saving adjustments to her children’s car seats. Although Bethany’s infant daughter was seriously injured in the crash, she is expected to make a full recovery, and Bethany and her other child experienced only minor injuries. In this session, Bethany discussed the importance of providing Child Passenger Safety Car Seat Clinics, including what she learned at her clinic and how it helped her children survive a severe crash. In addition, a panel discussion offered crash perspectives from multiple Es including the doctor who treated Bethany’s daughter, EMT responders, and a law enforcement representative

Educating Your Community with Effective Outreach Tools

Educating the public to help change driver behaviors is a part of changing the culture in Minnesota. New resources have been developed including videos, fact sheets, and PowerPoint presentations. These tools are geared toward new drivers, local governments, and service clubs, as well as elected officials, which will streamline your traffic safety education outreach efforts.

Engineering Design Standards and Safety

Roadway design is often a careful balancing act between many competing interests including construction cost, right-of-way needs, future maintenance, operational efficiency, and the safety of roadway users. Design standards for various roadway elements are often questioned by various stakeholders who would prefer greater accommodation or less impact. This session discussed the importance of roadway standards and how they relate to balancing the safety of various roadway user groups.

Upholding Your Investigation in Court: How to Effectively Counter Common Defense Attorney Arguments

Most DWI investigations result in a conviction, but some produce lengthy contested hearings or jury trials, some of which result in either a dismissal or an acquittal. The difference between a DWI that resolves prior to trial and a DWI that goes to trial is often minor and small steps taken during the investigation that can save time in the long run as well as preserve a DWI conviction.

Innovative Strategies and Collaboration to Confront Distracted Driving

Tackling distracted driving is not easy. This session focused on the importance of working collaboratively with the four Es. It also reviewed the unique ways law enforcement proactively addresses this issue, including using MnDOT vehicles and the “Go Pro” initiative. It provided a break down of the statutes and tips for how to enforce these violations, including capturing evidence. Attendees heard about multifaceted, educational approaches and efforts, including partnering with businesses and school/community involvement. Tactics and lessons learned were also shared.

Medical Marijuana

As marijuana gains traction for “medical” and recreational use across the U.S., there is a critical need to educate and prepare law enforcement, prosecutors and judges, and our communities at large. Washington State’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor provided an overview of current trends in marijuana use, tips for training law enforcement on detection and documentation of impairment, and suggestions for addressing the issues that will arise as marijuana taboos decrease and access to the drug increases.

Roadside Oral Fluid Testing for DWI

Law enforcement agencies in several counties have implemented saliva collection and analysis for DUID cases. This session discussed the potential for oral fluid as a biological sample for detecting drugs in drivers by providing and overview of results from various research projects throughout the U.S.

Preventing Lane Departure: Rumbles and Mumbles

Rumble strips have often been used to prevent lane-departure crashes. Often times, however, local residents have complained about the noise that is produced when vehicles drive over them. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is evaluating mumble strips to replace rumble strips. Mumble strips have less external noise, making them more acceptable to roadway neighbors, but still have the interior vehicle noise to notify the driver. This presentation provided updates on the status and testing being done with these strips and how they can be used.

Drug Abuse Trends: Minnesota and Nationally

This fast-paced presentation covered the trends in drug abuse in Minnesota and nationally, based on the most recent data from multiple sources, including medical examiners, treatment programs, law enforcement, and surveys. 

Coalitions and Fatal Reviews: The Gateway to Community Action Plans

This session provided strategies on how to build and then motivate your partners for those with an established community coalition or those who are looking to start one. It also shared tips for how to put your fatal review action plan to work by hearing what others have implemented in their community. A brief review of the TZD Safe Roads grant requirements was also provided. 

Cold Water Rescue: A Case Study

On November 21, 2013, a car crashed into a freeway retention pond in St. Louis Park. Using a 360-degree approach, first responders, EMS, hospital, and investigative personnel discussed the evolution and aftermath of this rush-hour incident that claimed the lives of two children and injured three others.

Get on Track with Rail Safety

This session provided a comprehensive understanding from different perspectives and entities on rail safety issues and focused on how we can all work together effectively toward safety. Engineering, police, and rail representatives presented their key issues, countermeasures, and ideas on working together.

Legislative Updates

This session discussed legislative and case law updates, including this year’s legislative changes regarding lowering the high blood alcohol level (BAC) to 0.16, gross misdemeanor reckless driving, and the necessity defense. Recent appellate decisions were also discussed.

Highway Safety for Emergency Responders

Motor vehicle-related incidents are a leading cause of traumatic death to firefighters, police, and EMS workers. This session reviewed best practices to make a highway scene safer for victims, responders, and the motoring public.

Implementing a Traffic Safety Culture in the Workplace

Traffic crashes kill employees in your communities! They are the number-one cause of worker deaths and the most costly worker’s compensation injury by cause. Employers have the opportunity to influence the traffic safety culture within their organizations and you can help. Attendees at this session learned from employers firsthand about their experiences in developing and implementing workplace traffic safety programs and the role traffic safety partners can play. Sample polices and resources were also presented.

Trends in Occupant Protection on School Buses

NHTSA has recently brought attention to the need for improvement of occupant protection on school buses. This session discussed available restraint systems on school buses for students ranging in age from pre-K through adult. The speaker discussed the limits of compartmentalization and the misconceptions surrounding its effectiveness. Trends toward lap-shoulder belts, both community-driven and by regulation, were also covered. 

The Aging Driver: What’s on the Road Ahead? (Part 1)

There is much discussion surrounding the aging driver and resources to continue driving safely. Impaired vision, lack of flexibility, reduced reaction time, dementia, and other factors can increase an aging driver’s crash risk. This session reviewed how the aging process affects the skills and abilities necessary for safe driving and how to start the conversation with a loved one about giving up the keys. The session also provided resources and programs that attendees could take away and implement immediately.

The “Trics” of Trauma Care: Assessment and Care of the Pediatric, Bariatric, and Geriatric Trauma Patient

Although initial assessment and care of trauma patients follow the same sequence, there are age and size specific considerations when looking at children, older adults, and those of larger sizes. This session identified when assessment and treatment may require adjustments to standard protocols and actions.

Meet Me at the Crossroad: You Can Make a Safer Road

The mission, should you accept it, as part of a four-E safety team, will be an intersection redesign. Using assistance and expertise of top-notch safety experts, session attendees applied four-E strategies to a mock intersection. Learn ways in which each E can collaborate to make an intersection safer.

Achieving Speed Compliance in Minnesota

While there appears to be agreement that improving compliance with posted speed limits is a good thing, achieving this goal is a contentious issue in Minnesota. Everything from how speed limits are set, to what technologies may be used to enforce them, to how they are prosecuted, and the safety impacts of any of those points can be fodder for spirited debate. This panel featured a discussion from the Education, Enforcement, and Engineering points of view, including the results of MnDOT’s study of whether certain roads should have the posted speed limit increased from 55 to 60 mph.

Implementing Pedestrian and Bicycle Education and Enforcement

Pairing education and enforcement is often said to be an effective way to increase bicycle and pedestrian safety. The discussion explored the new educational program called Walk! Bike! Fun! that is being taught to elementary-aged children. A law enforcement representative also discussed leading an effective enforcement campaign.

The Aging Driver: What’s on the Road Ahead? (Part 2)

Older, medically-impaired drivers often exhibit behaviors resembling DUI, attracting the attention of law enforcement. In addition, new road designs can be confusing and intimidating to the older driver. This session reviewed how law enforcement and local transportation officials are interacting with an aging population and growing concerns about older driver safety.

Lessons Learned for a Safer Shift

Crew resource management encompasses a wide range of knowledge, skills, and attitudes including communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork. When a helicopter is needed on scene, what are the roles of law enforcement, fire, EMS, and bystanders to keep the scene safe and efficient?

To Protect – and To Serve: Perspectives from a Crash Victim’s Family and Law Enforcement

A crash involves more than the injured. This session reviewed how one family dealt with the ongoing insurance claims, rising medical costs, and claim denials, as well as how interaction with law enforcement (offering support, crash scene information, and community resources) can make the journey of healing, both physically and mentally, a bit easier.

Increasing Motorcyclists' Use of Protective Gear

This session shared new campaign strategies resulting from rider focus groups that may help increase the use of motorcycle helmets and protective gear. It also included updates on motorcycle road guarding, which became legal this year. This allows road guard certificate holders to stop and control traffic for motorcycle group rides.

CPS Boot Camp

What things work well, need improvement, or should be tossed out to make your Child Passenger Safety program more relevant and efficient? At this session, attendees explored new resources on reducing risks and liability and worked in break-out groups to exchange best practices and share top tips on checkup events; seat checks; getting the word out about programs, partnerships, and funding; handling difficult customers; and staying current.


The conference is offered by the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths Program and the Minnesota Departments of Public Safety, Transportation, and Health. The conference is hosted by the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies and facilitated by the College of Continuing Education.

Additional sponsorship has been received from several organizations at the following levels:

Silver ($2,500)


Bronze ($1,000)

AAA Hiway Credit Union